By Rich Kurtzman
While the Broncos are heading into one of the most difficult games all season, it was great news that all players players were present at the beginning of practice.
That included important man in the middle of the defense, Wesley Woodyard, as well as right guard Chris Kuper. Yes, both starters returned to the practice, though each were limited participants. Both sat out Thursday’s win over the Raiders, each one was certainly missed. Kuper, who worked his way back from a fractured forearm in training camp, injured his ankle severely against the Bengals and it’s uncertain what his status is for the remainder of the season. Without him, Peyton Manning was sacked three times in Oakland, showing the importance of his presence. Manny Ramirez has to continue to prepare as the starter again, and for a difficult defense this week as well.
Woodyard has been the Denver defense’s rock, leading the team by far with 97 total tackles while making other huge plays—like interceptions and sacks—at critical times. Luckily, D.J. Williams was there to pick up the slack in Oakland, but Woodyard insists he’ll play this Sunday.
With the Ravens comes another strong running team and Ray Rice. Rice is a bigger back than he seems and he refuses to go down without a fight. The Broncos defense must be preparing for a heavy dose of him Sunday afternoon. It’s not just that Rice is one of the best runners in all of football, but other factors make it likely he carries the load in Baltimore as well.
Joe Flacco is good, not yet great, and his 15 total turnovers this season are evidence. The Ravens don’t want to give Flacco too many opportunities to give the game away, keeping it on the ground is their best bet. Plus, the forecast has called for rain in Maryland all week, meaning it may be the best strategy for both teams.
The Broncos are pass-first, so emphasizing the run would be a big change, yet, something that would be smart to prepare for. Knowshon Moreno has done very well as of late, averaging 91 yards per game on the ground, and he’s got to be gearing up as if he could be featured more this week. Of course, if all-world linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs return this week for the Ravens, it could make running the rock that much more difficult.
“This will be a playoff-type game,” Head Coach John Fox said. “You’re talking about a team that’s been in the playoffs four straight years, was a field goal away from going into overtime in the championship game. I think Coach (John) Harbaugh’s done a tremendous job. They’ve got excellent staff, excellent football team, they know how to win and part of that is being tough at home. They’ve only lost one game there this year.”
And Denver is 0-5 all-time in Baltimore as they look to win this all-important road game Sunday.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.